Mediations 31.2 special issue: Materialism and the Critique of Energy

24th Jun 2018

The Spring 2018 issue of Mediations is out. Volume 31.2 is a special issue: Materialism and the Critique of Energy. You can find the full issue here:

The ToC is as follows (with links): 

Editors’ Note


Materialism and the Critique of Energy: Brent Ryan Bellamy and Jeff Diamanti make the case for the critique of energy by arguing that “the core contradiction of today’s economic system is and always has been tied to its facility with energy.” A critical standpoint on our ongoing economic and ecological crises demands a new historical account of energy.

Waves of Fossil Development: Periodizing Energy and Capital: Andreas Malm tracks a long history of capitalist expansion and crisis to make the case that its “contradictions and convulsions” are the moments that energy consumption and production do the most to “reproduce the fossil economy on ever greater scales.” Examining economic slowdowns or moments of depression might provide insights into the expansion of fossil fuel energy dependence.

Mapping the Atomic Unconscious: Postcolonial Capital in Nuclear Glow: Turning to the ways immaterial forms of “accumulation and material forms of labor intersect” under postcolonial capitalism, Katherine Lawless maps the relation between cultural media and the flow of energy and asks: “What happens if we map the emergence of global memory cultures alongside the transition to nuclear energy?”

Petrofiction and Political Economy in the Age of Late Fossil Capital: Amy Riddle focuses on two novels, Oil on Water and Cities of Salt, to explore the “cultural logic of late fossil capital,” exploring the relation between oil as a commodity form and oil as part of nature, on one hand, and on the other, the distinction between realism and naturalism as argued by Georg Lukács in “Narrate or Describe?”

The Political Energies of the Archaeomodern Tool: Taking up work from the 2015 Venice Biennale and Fredric Jameson’s Representing Capital, Amanda Boetzkes explores the intersection of the use of energies in both political struggle and the work of machines, arguing for reading the importance of Walter Benjamin’s concept of the “archaeomodern tool,” in which political energies can be gauged in their representation as petrified objects.

Keeping the Lights On: Oil Shocks, Coal Strikes, and the Rise of Electroculture: David Thomas takes a close look at the United Kingdom during the 1970s to examine the emergence of “electroculture.” Mapping class struggle, dispossession, and state violence onto a history of oil, Thomas makes the case that labor politics and energy politics are deeply intertwined.

Antiphysis/Antipraxis: Universal Exhaustion and the Tragedy of Materiality: Through a prolonged engagement with two indispensable works on the critique of energy — Fossil Capital and Capitalism in the Web of Life — Alberto Toscano develops a theory of universal exhaustion, positing a dialectics and tragedy of depletion and exhaustion that points to the limits to both nature and capital.

Afterword: Through the dialectic of parasite and host, Oxana Timofeeva underscores the link between capital and energy, pressing this dialectic into a brief comparison of labor and oil to reiterate the importance of Marxist dialectics to the study and critique of energy.


Anthropocene Marxism: Thomas A. Laughlin reviews Marx and the Earth by John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett.

“In the Heat of this Ongoing Past”: Three Lessons on Energy, Climate, and Materialism: Jordan B. Kinder reviews two books by Andreas Malm.

Aesthetics and Activism: Stacey Balkan reviews Shelley Streeby’s Imagining the Future of Climate Change: World-Making Through Science Fiction and Activism.


Info on Materialism and the Critique of Energy

Materialism and the Critique of Energy brings together twenty-one theorists working in a range of traditions to conceive of a twenty-first century materialism critical of the economic, political, cultural, and environmental impacts of large-scale energy development on collective life. The book reconceives of the inseparable histories of fossil fuels and capital in order to narrate the historical development of the fossil regime, interpret its cultural formations, and develop politics suited to both resist and revolutionize energy-hungry capitalism. By almost every projection, the simple reproduction of existing systems of production and distribution, to say nothing of their growth, will doom the planet to a host of ecocidal developments — from rising sea levels and ocean acidification to desertification in some places and more intensely concentrated rainfall in others. This book begins to explain the historical and material roots of such catastrophic futures and to offer a path away from them towards almost unimaginable energy futures. Examples of the new fields of critical research included in the book range from Marxist-feminism and an energy-critique analysis, test cases for a critique of “electroculture,” an analysis of the figurative use of energies in both political struggle and the work of machines, and the intersection of Indigenous labor and the history of extractivism. Materialism and the Critique of Energy lays the foundation for future study at the intersection of history, culture, new materialism, and energy humanities.

The book will be (very shortly) available in PDF for free here: and will also be available through Amazon print-on-demand.